Florida Fallen Stories

Photo courtesy of Mark Krancer

Florida’s Fallen at Camp Wheeler

124th Infantry (Florida National Guard), Camp Wheeler, Macon, Georgia, January 16, 1918


At many as 108 of Florida’s Fallen died at Camp Wheeler, some 165 miles from the Florida-Georgia state line. Camp Wheeler was established in 1917 as one of 16 Army National Guard Mobilization and Training Camps. It cost $4 million to build and was named for Joseph Wheeler, who served as a brigadier general for the U.S. Army and as a lieutenant general for the Confederacy. It was home to the 31st Infantry Division in World War I, known as the “Dixie” Division, as most who trained here were from Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The 31st Division spent most of the war in camp and was sent as a replacement division in France in October 1918, which meant individual members were dispersed to existing units. As a whole division, the 31st never saw combat. By the time the camp closed in 1919, 80,000 troops had trained there.

Most of Florida’s Fallen who died at Camp Wheeler were members of the 124th Infantry. The 1st and 2d Regiments of Florida National Guard Infantry were drafted into Federal service on August 5, 1917, at Jacksonville and Wauchula, respectively. Consolidated, reorganized, and redesignated as the 124th Infantry on October 1, the unit was assigned to the 31st Division, with headquarters at Camp Wheeler. 


Florida troops, Camp Wheeler, February 1918


Most of the deaths among 124th Infantry troops occurred during the Fall 1917-Winter 1918 months. The number one cause of death was pneumonia, followed by meningitis, empyema, measles, and tuberculosis. There was one case each of mumps, appendicitis, heart failure, intestinal obstruction, pleurisy, septicemia, and septic thrombosis. Another one was shot to death while attempting to escape by a camp guard.  Of the 108 of Florida’s Fallen, 100 died of respiratory illness or an influenza-like communicable disease.

The fact that so many deaths occurred in so brief a time alarmed everyone. The fear that their sons were being neglected or ill-treated prompted a call to action. Gov. Sidney Catts, whose own son was stationed at Wheeler and heard firsthand about conditions at the camp, called on President Wilson, the Chief of Staff, and Secretary of War to investigate, threatening to recall all Florida troops unless the government did something. In response, a team of medical investigators, led by Major General William C. Gorgas, surgeon general of the army, inspected Camp Wheeler on November 23, 1917. Gorgas reported that the camp was, overall, in good condition and the troops were being “well cared for.” Similar inspections by delegations from Alabama and Georgia came to the same conclusion. But there were legitimate causes for concern. For one thing, the camp of roughly 25,000 at the time was overcrowded and many men did not have adequate winter uniforms. Gorgas recommended that physical distancing be implemented, allowing for at least 50-square-feet of space per man. This meant reducing the number in tents from 9 to 5. In addition, Gorgas stipulated that no new recruits be allowed to enter the camp until the situation had improved. 

Gorgas was also concerned about an epidemic at the camp. At the time of his visit, there were more than 3,000 cases of measles in the hospital, and 300 cases of pneumonia which had developed from the measles, though the death rate was comparatively low. Moreover, the men were in overcrowded wards without adequate nursing staff. Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War, who also visited the camp in February 1918, insisted that a new hospital wing under construction would help to alleviate this problem. Meanwhile, to help relieve overcrowding, Camp Wheeler officials transferred more than 125 convalescents to hospital at Fort McPherson near Atlanta. In addition, numerous tuberculosis patients were discharged from the Army and sent home, and more nurses were assigned to the base hospital at Wheeler. Finally, wooden barracks replaced tents. Such measures helped, and the number of cases declined. It was not until late Spring 1918, when 13,460 men, or about 80 per cent of the entire camp strength, were vaccinated against pneumonia, that the threat of pneumonia at Camp Wheeler finally subsided.


Among Florida’s Fallen at Camp Wheeler

John Eldred Jenkins


Born November 15, 1888, in Madison County, Florida, Jenkins was the oldest of three sons of Jessie Jenkins (1865-1937) and Frances (Fannie) Buston (1868-1937). A farmer in Dowling Park, Florida, he was inducted in the army at Live Oak, Florida on September 18, 1917. He was married and had a 1 ½ year-old-son at the time of his death, which occurred on February 3, 1918, owing to pneumonia. He was buried in Beulah Baptist Cemetery, Dowling Park, Suwanee County, Florida. Also dying on the same date as Jenkins at Camp Wheeler was Elzie Burke, of Westville Florida, who had enlisted in the Florida National Guard at Chipley on April 12, 1917. 


George (Georgie) L. Dillon


One of seven children of Charles Marion Dillon (1854-1899) and Ida Adams (1856-1908) of Key West, Dillon was born on December 30, 1890. He worked as a fisherman in Hillsborough County (1910). In the 1914 city directory for Key West, he resided at 515 Margaret Street, along with his brother Earl, an Army sergeant, Romeo, also a fisherman, and Cleveland, a policeman. Corporal Dillon died of pneumonia at Camp Wheeler on December 3, 1917.


Alva Hovey Morris


Morris was born on October 26, 1893, in Cooper, Chilton County, Alabama, one of ten children of Robert Milo Morris (1862-1930) and Nola Downs (1872-1920). The Morrises moved to Gadsden County, Florida by 1910, and in 1917 Alva worked as a Fuller’s Earth clay miner in Quincy. An Army cook, he died of pneumonia on November 22, 1917, and was buried in Cool Springs Cemetery, Faceville, Decatur County, Georgia. 


George Washington Bates


Bates was born in Fruitville, Florida on October 7, 1897, the oldest of six children of Thomas Jefferson Bates (1867-1951) and Claudie Eunice Hampton (1878-1957). He lived in Oak Hill, Florida, in 1900, and in Bunker, DeSoto County, in 1910. Corporal Bates died of pneumonia on December 14, 1917.


Jacob Franklin Stonebraker, Jr


Born in Arcadia, Florida, on October 22, 1896, he was the oldest of six children. He worked in his father’s hardware store prior to enlisting in Company K, Florida National Guard soon after the declaration of war against Germany. Before reporting for duty at Camp Wheeler, he married Lenora Crawford on May 25, 1917. On April 17, 1918, Corporal Stonebraker died of cerebral spinal meningitis at Camp Wheeler. His father, Jacob Stonebraker, was reportedly at his bedside. He had only been back at the camp a few weeks, having been in Florida on recruiting duty. He was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Arcadia. He was survived by his wife, father, mother, three sisters, and two brothers, one of whom was George Thomas Stonebraker, a sergeant in the same company.

James William Thomas Pumphrey


Born on January 13, 1895, in Marianna, Florida, he was the oldest of eleven children of Alfred Daniel Pumphrey (1863-1908) and Hannah Butler (1871-1941). A turpentine worker in Compass Lake, he married Flossie Mae Willis on January 9, 1916. Private Pumphrey died of empyema on April 21, 1918.


List of known Florida’s Fallen at Camp Wheeler


Name Death Date Cause of Death
Edward Abraham 12/28/17 measles
Jenkins Adams 12/10/17 empyema
Thomas Franklin Allen 2/12/18 pneumonia
Captain Emory Atkinson 11/19/17 lobar pneumonia
Horace John Barclay 12/7/17 pneumonia
George Washington Bates 12/14/17 lobar pneumonia
Leroy Walton Beck 11/25/17 lobar pneumonia
John Walter Bell 12/2/17 lobar pneumonia
William Henry Bradford 4/20/18 meningitis
Richard H. Brannen 2/18/18 septicemia
Franklin Lafayette Brown 11/26/17 broncho pneumonia
William (Willie) Barnes Bullard 12/29/17 lobar pneumonia
William L. Bunnells 1/1/18 lobar pneumonia
Elzie Burke 2/3/18 lobar pneumonia
John Thomas Butler 11/15/17 broncho pneumonia
Clinton Clive Caldwell 11/25/17 broncho pneumonia
Frank A. Caraway 10/15/17 tuberculosis
Wilton V. Carrigan 11/12/17 pneumonia
Thomas Jefferson Carter 11/15/17 lobar pneumonia
John William Clayton 1/29/18 mumps
Ralph Eugene Cooper 3/7/18 pneumonia
William Curtis Cutts 11/26/17 lobar pneumonia
Hampton Daniels 12/25/17 meningitis
George (Georgie) L. Dillon 12/3/17 pneumonia
Cassie G. Elmore 11/17/17 pneumonia
Allie J. Elmore 12/25/17 pneumonia
Martin Redding Frost, Jr 11/17/17 lobar pneumonia
George Wilson Frost, Jr 1/26/18 spinal meningitis
Charles (Charlie) Alfonso Gomes 3/14/1918 meningitis
Charles Leslie Halley 5/28/18 gunshot – escaping guard
Silas Tafford Harrell 11/29/17 pneumonia
Ralph H. Hart 12/1/17 lobar pneumonia
Lewis Owen Harvey 11/17/17 pneumonia
John Pickens Henry 4/20/18 lobar pneumonia
Ezekiel Hiers 11/18/17 pneumonia
Culpepper (Cullie) Durand Hodges 11/28/17 measles
Henry May Hodges 1/6/18 meningitis
Oscar Napolean Howard 11/15/17 pneumonia
James Monroe Hudson 12/31/17 empyema
John Eldred Jenkins 2/3/18 pneumonia
Charlie Jones 11/1/18 lobar pneumonia
Jesse George Washington Kirkland, Jr 9/29/18 pneumonia
Percy Eugene Knight 12/1/17 pneumonia
Herbert Jackson Knight 12/29/17 lobar pneumonia
Frank Asbury Lacy, Jr 12/6/17 measles
Joseph Coy Lastinger 12/2/17 pneumonia
Carl W. Lawton 11/22/17 lobar pneumonia
John Wilby Lee 11/1/17 lobar pneumonia
Claud Mack Leitner 11/24/17 lobar pneumonia
James Edwin Leitner 11/24/17 lobar pneumonia
L. Oren Livingston 11/22/17 measles
William Malcolm Lumsden 4/22/18 lobar pneumonia
Robert Clarence Lyles 1/20/18 cerebral spinal meningitis
Arthur Madden 11/14/17 pneumonia
Bacile Marvin Mathews 11/17/17 lobar pneumonia
John Joseph (Joe) Mayo 11/1/17 pneumonia
John Wilson McCranie, Jr 5/6/18 lobar pneumonia
Rogers McCullers 8/27/18 lobar pneumonia
Ira McKinney 11/26/17 lobar pneumonia
Robert Mitchell McLaulin 4/20/18 pneumonia
Patrick W. McLoughlin 12/19/17 tuberculosis
Harry B. Miley 11/22/17 pneumonia
Irvin Minton 1/15/18 lobar pneumonia
Homer Everett Mitchell 11/28/17 broncho pneumonia
George Mitchell 12/27/17 meningitis
Alva Hovey Morris 11/22/17 lobar pneumonia
John Martin Morris 3/19/19 tuberculosis
Henry Neel 11/12/17 pneumonia
William Franklin Nettles 12/9/17 empyema
Clarence Clay Orchard 3/23/18 meningitis
Raymond Arthur Orton 1/2/18 empyema
Burke Maria Ruben Pacetti 11/20/17 lobar pneumonia
Edwin Willard Parrish 4/19/18 septic thrombosis of lateral sinus
Fred Rufus Patterson 2/12/18 empyema
Niven Lee Peacock 1/29/18 meningitis
Stewart James Pellicer 11/28/17 lobar pneumonia
John Angus Peterson 3/30/18 meningitis
Russell Sandford Pinkston 11/27/17 broncho pneumonia
James William Thomas Pumphrey 4/21/18 empyema
James Henry Raulerson 1/4/18 lobar pneumonia
Ralph Redd 11/13/17 pneumonia
Earlie Douglass Rice 1/30/18 lobar pneumonia
Olney Pasco Roberts 11/30/17 lobar pneumonia
Claude John Roberts 4/17/18 lobar pneumonia
Chester Wallis Roberts 4/18/18 appendicitis
Frank Theodore Rodriguez 11/14/17 pneumonia
George Houston Sandlin 11/30/17 pneumonia
Ivey Sapp 12/6/17 tuberculosis
Alexander Scarborough 12/5/17 meningitis
Forest Assatus Shaller 11/25/17 lobar pneumonia
Frank C. Smedley 12/3/17 spinal meningitis
Albert Haden Sphinx 12/9/17 broncho pneumonia
Jacob Franklin Stonebraker, Jr 4/17/18 cerebral spinal meningitis
Edward Henry Strickland 11/19/17 pleurisy
Charlie C. Suggs 7/9/17 heart failure
Homer Dillon Sullivan 2/15/18 meningitis
William Edward Traylor 12/13/17 meningitis
Eugene Delene Tucker 12/6/17 lobar pneumonia
William C. Tuttle 12/9/17 pneumonia
William Grady Vinson 1/15/18 lobar pneumonia
Sidney John Walker 2/2/18 lobar pneumonia
Preston Howard Weathersbee 6/1/18 empyema
George C. Wiggins 12/30/17 empyema
Rastus A. Williams 11/14/17 broncho pneumonia
Charles C. Willis 12/8/17 lobar pneumonia
Henry Simeon Wilson 11/26/17 pneumonia
Howard M. Wofford 1/2/18 intestinal obstruction
Joseph J. Yon 4/14/18 lobar pneumonia




Florida troop tents, Camp Wheeler, February 1918.